New Work: "The Leucrotta"
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It's escaped! I mean, it's out! Oh, anyway: Gods, Memes and Monsters: a 21st Century Bestiary is now available from Stone Skin Press.

Edited by the inestimable Heather J. Wood, it includes my entry on the Leucrotta, Jon Blum on Meme Mosquitoes and the Greater Spotted Capital, Patrick O'Duffy on the Catoblepas, Greg Stolze on the Tedious Finch, Peter Birch's Erotic Goblins and the unadulterated terror of the Stiff Mogs, as witnessed by Rupert Booth. With many, many more creatures guaranteed to unsettle the urban night and make you think twice about visiting the British Museum. Ever again, seriously.

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The leucrotta is a seriously ancient and under-estimated monster. Those who remember today think it was invented for 1st Ed. D&D, but I assure you, this is not so. Not the least because of the copyright violation that would entail. This entry is also my tribute to the late, lamented Club Ascension that used to run at the Sly Fox in Enmore. I fear it succumbed to forces much more mundane.

It's available at the usual Impersonal Online Retailers (who otherwise do not appear). But if you are interested, you really might as well go straight to Stone Skin Press for either the paperback or ebook versions.

Review: Skin Deep
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by Gary Kemble, Echo Publishing, 2015

Reviewed by Kyla Ward, 2013




"But then after the war... ah, I dunno, war just teaches you the real meaning of fear."


Harry Hendricks is a journalist who has never been near a war. The closest he's come was when his expose of corruption in Brisbane city was sabotaged, leaving his career in tatters. But he's getting an education all the same and his own skin is the whiteboard. In this thoroughly contemporary ghost story, you can forget about haunted houses: as Harry soon realises, he's contending with a haunted body.




"Harry moaned. The top third of his back was covered in blood. In some places deep red, in others purple and black as it started to dry. There was a tattoo underneath, but he couldn't see it through the blood...

...He wasn't doing this to himself. He knew that now. So someone or something was doing it to him."



Discovering the who and why is no straightforward task. Harry finds himself tracing a conspiracy from Afghanistan to Canberra, from motorcycle gangs to property developers, and the situation escalates quickly. Harry is no coward, but the tattoos and the alien memories they anchor expose him to a different kind of masculinity than his own, presenting a direct challenge to his already battered ego. In many ways, the real battle is for the journalist to trust in his own skills and cling to his own values in the face of ever-increasing opposition.

Brisbane's body is haunted too. Heritage sites such as the old water tower tattoo the landscape with meanings opportunistic development can only wish to erase. Community groups and local newspapers mount their defence against big money and scurrilous tactics. This battle, familiar to the residents of any Australian city, plays out beside the other, and gives the novel its rich and particular texture. Gary Kemble, once of Brisbane and still a journalist, has constructed his fiction on a foundation of recent events. It's just that, in his universe, things didn't play out in quite the same way. I have it on good authority, for instance, that Mr Kemble is not a near-alcoholic whose girlfriend has just left him.

To read the full review, go here.


New Work: "Cursebreaker: The Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies"
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The third Cursebreaker story is finally available today, in the new Ticonderoga Press anthology Hear Me Roar. They wanted stories of real women and unreal worlds, though in my case the inverse might be more accurate. Being Ticonderoga Press, they also wanted top notch writing, and though I say so myself, that's what they got with Cat Sparks's "Veteran's Day", Jane Routley's "Barista", Jenny Blackford's "The Sorrow", Kathleen Jennings's "A Hedge of Yellow Roses"... I could just keep going. But here, take a look for yourself.

HearMeRoar

"The Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies" is a cases of research gone out of all control. I did insane things for this. I combed through The Greek Magical Papyri (in translation including the Demotic Spells, ed. Han Dieter Betz, University of Chicago Press, 1992 (1986)) searching for keywords. I performed my own translations from the French of Silvestre de Sacy's 1810 translation from the Arabic of Abd – Allatif's 12th century Description of Egypt, in which he describes the ruins of Memphis and the practice of treasure hunting at that time - thanks once again to the restricted section of the Mitchell Library. This is what happenes when I get a bee in my bonnet.

It all goes back to my article "Tomb Raider", in Dragon #327 (January 2005). Here, I attempted to re-examine the D&D trope of looting ancient tombs with real world examples. I discovered the fact that in 12th century Egypt, looting the tombs of the Pharaohs was a specific kind of employment strictly regulated by the Caliphate. But, it was my place to do the work. It's yours to read a story in which it is hopefully undetectable.

“Ah! Allah have mercy!”

“Hello to you too.”

“Ouchioch! Osoronophris! Ouserrannouphthi! Do not touch me, foul ghul!”

“Now that's just rude... "


Review: The Art of Effective Dreaming
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By Gillian Polack, Satalyte Publishing, 2015

A Review By Kyla Lee Ward

As Stephen King is wont to say, "… the difference between humour and horror is it stops being funny when it starts happening to you." (most recently, at the International Festival of Authors PEN Gala, October 24, 2013). In her latest novel, Gillian Polack shepherds us gently past the point where Fay's dreams stop being fantasy and become utterly terrifying.

Fay is a twenty-something public servant, living in Canberra, Australia. She is single, likes reading and used to play the flute, but all that is boring. So deadly dull she scarcely spares it a second thought. Fay has become adept at the mental discipline people call fantasising, daydreaming or pathworking, depending on how seriously they take it. And Fay is coming to realise that she must take her little trips to this nameless, medieval-style town with its looming castle very seriously indeed.

"This world is a construct. The reality is the street at night. There is a big moon overhead, not a sun. I'm not asleep and this is not real. So where were the lampposts and the pavement? Why am I running? And why is the grass growing?"

This is a book about assumptions. About reality, for starters, but also about need, duty and happiness. Is an act that would be condemned in reality acceptable in a fantasy, when after all, no one really gets hurt? How much of a person's identity resides in their environment? From such questions, a complex and intricate narrative is spun, that interrogates the whole concept of fantasy (both the literary genre and the activity) without mercy...

For the complete review, see here.

Appearance: Exploring Speculative Poetry
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"Speculative poetry is a way of elegantly exploring fantastic realms usually limited to film and prose. From Cylon basestar poetry to Beowulf, we analyse what makes a speculative poem and look at what the future may hold."

So reads the blurb for my panel at this year's Continuum. Emma Osborne - author of Crashdown and many others - and myself will be there in the Sun room at 8.00 pm on Sunday the 7th of June, to confront the question of why there should be "genre" poetry at all? We probably won't discuss Cylons, even if they do paraphrase Yeats from time to time. LEXX, and Spike from Buffy may get a mention, but so may Ann K. Schwader, Bruce Boston, Lucy Snyder and Wade German. We will consider the differences between poetry and prose, the current state of the poetry market and important competitions.

Come along and broaden your horizons! And get a nice, front row seat for the next panel, on the television adaptations of Marvel and DC comics!

See the day's full program here.

"Who Looks Back?" Reprinted!
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I don't like to make announcements until the contents list goes public - I guess this counts. New Cthulhu Two: More Recent Weird, edited by Paula Guran, is now available from Prime Books (and Amazon). It reprints "Who Looks Back?", my story from Shotguns vs Cthulhu, as well as pieces by Angela Slatter, Charles Stross, John Shirley, Caitlin R. Kiernan and many more luminaries. Just looking at it makes me dizzy!

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This story was also mentioned in a (comparatively) recent review of the book, which I quote here:

"I enjoyed most of the stories here but ... My favorites were the lead-in story, "Who Looks Back," and "Last Things Last," a hard boiled tale with a tender heart. If you like Lovecraft then this is one to grab."

- the Literary Omnivore, Amazon, 1 July 2014

I really think it's one of my best. And it really did all come out of bushwalking in New Zealand.

Upcoming Work: "Cursebreaker: the Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies"
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It is now official: my new Cursebreaker story, "The Mutalibeen and the Memphite Mummies" will appear in Hear Me Roar from Ticonderoga Publications. This anthology showcases speculative fiction featuring strong and active female protagonists - who in my case are also a little twisted. Congratulations to my fellow travellers, including Jenny Blackford, Stephanie Gunn, Jane Routely, Cat Sparks and Janine Webb, and to editor Liz Grzyb for pulling it all together!

I like to think that the Cursebreaker titles are fair advertising: they tell you exactly what you're in for, but not how you're going to get it. FOr that, you'll have to wait until June, although the book can be preordered at indiebooks.


Review: Path of Night
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By Dirk Flinthart, Fablecroft, 2013

Reviewed by Kyla Lee Ward

Path of Night coverTen

This is a by-the-numbers thriller, so you can expect certain things. An easy-going Everyman who stumbles into something he shouldn't – in this case, illegal biological research. A spunky lady cop, following the fallout and determined to get to the bottom of things. An ice-cold assassin who's already there. Sparks of sexual tension, and rapidly escalating violence. And it's not too much of a spoiler to suggest that, at the end, there's going to be one hell of a –

Nine

But it's also got vampires in it. Night beasts. Now, you could call these monsters old school – the path leads back to ancient Mesopotamia – except that old school vampires aren't generally this well-equipped. Flinthart takes the sensible approach that, even if the Night Beast virus creates bloodthirsty, super-powered psychopaths, they aren't going to survive the millennia without getting properly organised. There's even a treaty in place, to prevent all-out war between them and an ancient order of vampire hunters. Of course, the unprecedented changes occurring to our hero could defenestrate everything.

Eight

What you look for in a romp like this is deft handling of the tropes. Flinthart delivers a thoughtful and entertaining take on his material. Mike's condition brings on moral quandaries, that lend the emotional action the same kind of crunch that the convincing details of hardware and procedure grant the more militaristic sequences. The operations of the Hunter, Hellyer, are pleasingly plausible, as are the machinations of the villainous, yet intelligent, Lutterell, "the Seigneur's Seneschal".

Seven...

To finish the countdown, go here.


Review: Perfections
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By Kirstyn McDermott, Twelfth Planet Press, 2014 (2012)

Reviewed by Kyla Lee Ward

Perfections cover"She keeps writing, ignoring the sparks of pain in her hand, the winch-tight ache across her shoulders from sitting curled over for so long. Knowing that most of it has to be rubbish, the words no better than ashes and dust, because nothing that comes this easily can possibly be good – can it? can it? – but writing anyway, compelled to get everything out and onto the page."

With only a slight shift of perspective, this could be a razor-edged depiction of the worst month in the lives of two sisters. The month one ends a four-year relationship. The month their mother dies. It could be that story; only then readers like me wouldn't touch it. Readers like me need the gloss, the promise of something beyond. And that is exactly where the horror of Perfections lies.

Jacqueline is the elder, the responsible, clear-thinking one with the degree and the job in the gallery. Antoinette is the impulsive, passionate one, who works as a waitress to support her lover as he finishes his novel. They perform their ritualistic dance, of mutual comfort and contempt, in contemporary Melbourne, attempting to avoid all but equally ritualistic contact with their eccentric mother, who lives like a hermit out in the Dandenongs.

Neither sister creates. Although both are drawn, in their separate ways, to acts of imagination, neither imagines she can perform them. Until Antoinette, without really meaning to, crosses the line. Until the night she is left alone with a bottle of vodka and an empty notebook, and then, of course, all hell breaks loose.

Read the complete review here.


Horror Shelfie
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This image has been out and about for a while now, as part of the Horror Writers Association "Horror Selfie" promotion.



For my own records, and the potential edification and amusement of my readers, I have decided to list the books that can be seen however dimly in the picture. They are all from the personal library assembled by David and myself, and the unifying theme will rapidly become clear.

Maria Alexander, At Louche Ends, Burning Effigy Press, 2011
"", Mr Wicker, Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2014

K. J. Bishop, The Etched City, Prime Books, 2003

Poppy Z. Brite, Exquisite Corpse, Orion Books, 1996

"", Self Made Man, Orion Books, 1998

"", Lost Souls, Delacorte Press, 1992

"", Swamp Fetus, Penguin Books, 1994

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Pan Books, 1967 (1847)

Edwina Grey, Prismatic, Lothian, 2006

Barbara Hambly, Immortal Blood, Unwin Paperbacks, 1988

"", Travelling With The Dead, Voyager, 1995

Narelle Harris, The Opposite of Life, Pulp Fiction Press, 2007

":" Walking Shadows, Clan Destine Press, 2012

Susan Hill, The Woman In Black, Mandarin 1992 (1983)

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